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Hebron shoe industry battling against Chinese products

Jan. 28, 2013 10:05 P.M. (Updated: Jan. 31, 2013 7:43 P.M.)
HEBRON (Ma’an) -- The city of Hebron in the southern West Bank has long been famous for the production of high quality leather shoes.

However in the last two decades, dozens of factories have closed as they struggle with Israeli restrictions on the city, but also a new threat: Chinese imports.

Hebron's shoe industry "is in a state of war against shoes imported from China," says Jihad Iskafi, owner of a shoe factory in Hebron who has been in the business for 25 years.

Isfaki says a dedicated local consumer market, which knows the high-quality of Hebron's materials and craftsmanship, is the industry's only hope.

Fathi al-Juaaba, who has been in the shoe industry for 30 years, says the Palestinian government should protect the Hebron shoe industry through monitoring low quality products imported from China which he says have flooded the market.

"Shoes made in Hebron are being exported to many countries across the world including Italy," he said.

"If we want the shoe industry to flourish and develop, the Palestinian government must protect us from the monster of importation and make export procedures easier."

Some shoe-makers are finding new avenues to market their product.

A website called The Hebron Store, which promotes Palestinian traditional products, has boosted purchases, Muhyyi ad-Din Sayyid Ahmad, a member of the Hebron chamber of commerce, said.

Meanwhile, several Israeli companies still manufacture shoes in Hebron, he said.

Several Hebron products will also be on show in Abu Dhabi this month, as the Gulf emirate holds an international fashion exhibition.
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